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Experimental Vaccine Found to Prevent Herpes Zoster and Postherpetic Neuralgia in Older Adults

In one of the largest adult vaccine trials ever, researchers have shown that an experimental vaccine against shingles prevented about half (51 percent) of cases of shingles, a painful nerve and skin infection, and dramatically reduced its severity and complications in vaccinated persons who got shingles. The Shingles Prevention Study involved more than 38,500 men and women, age 60 or older, at 22 study sites across the country. Half the subjects received a placebo and the other half received a single injection of the zoster vaccine containing a live, weakened form of the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles. During an average of more than three years of follow-up, 642 cases of shingles occurred in the placebo group, compared to only 315 in the vaccinated group. The total burden of pain and discomfort caused by shingles was reduced by 61% in vaccine recipients and the occurrence of postherpetic neuralgia was reduced by two-thirds (61%) compared to placebo.

The zoster vaccine was tested only as a preventive therapy. It is not intended as a treatment for those who already have shingles or postherpetic neuralgia. It showed an excellent safety profile with only mild adverse events such as headaches and injection-site reactions such as redness and rash. Oxman MN, Levin MJ, Johnson GR, et al. "A vaccine to prevent herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia in older adults." New England Journal of Medicine. 352(22):2271-84, 2005.



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